If you think eggplants are the ~filthiest~ thing at the market, you're way off the mark. Strawberries top this year's list of dirtiest produce, according to the newest report from Environmental Working Group (EWG), which uses data collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration (USDA) to rank the 12 most contaminated conventionally-grown fruits and veggies (i.e., The Dirty Dozen) and the 15 safest ones (The Clean Fifteen).2016 DIRTY DOZEN
- Sweet bell peppers
- Cherry tomates
2016 CLEAN FIFTEEN
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas (frozen)
- Honeydew melon
This year's report was based on more than 35,200 samples of the 48 most popular kinds of produce, which is assessed after it's thoroughly cleaned. Meaning: The dirty ones listed above can harbor pesticides linked to awful things like cancer and hormonal issues, plus bacteria that makes you sick—even after you scrub the hell out of 'em.
In case you need another excuse to order a burger over a salad: Researchers found a total of 146 different kinds of pesticides among their samples. And because pesticide residue doesn't just stick around on the surface of your fruits and veggies—it gets all up inside of them—even discarding the peel might not protect you.
While apples have topped the EWG's dirty dozen list for what seems like forever, strawberries took the lead this year as the all-time dirtiest fruit: 98 percent of samples contained at least one kind of pesticide, with the dirtiest sample serving up to 17 different kinds. The EWG blames growers for trying to make the seasonal berries more affordable year-round, resorting to potentially dangerous chemicals, like carbendazim, a fungicide which is banned overseas because it's thought to disrupt hormones; bifenthrin, an insecticide that's a suspected carcinogen; and malathion, an insecticide that's considered a potential carcinogen.
Luckily, strawberry lovers don't have to give up their favorite fruit or start planning their own funerals: Many of the pesticides found on strawberries (and other fruits) appear to be benign, according to the EWG—and you can limit your exposure by splurging on certified-organic fruits and veggies, which are grown without synthetic chemicals or fertilizers. What doesn't kill you only makes a small dent in your savings.